WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump intentionally misled the American people about the lethality of the coronavirus because he did not want to create panic, according to investigative journalist Bob Woodward who was told as much by the President on record, on tape.
“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Trump told Woodward in a telephone interview on March 19, one of 18 he gave to the Washington chronicler between December and January for his book Rage, excerpts from which was made public today.
In an earlier February 7 phone call, Trump told Woodward, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed … And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
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“This is deadly stuff,” he repeats for emphasis.
But just a week earlier on January 30, Trump had told the American people that the pandemic was “very well under controln… We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”
Woodward writes in the book, which is due for release next week, that “Trump never did seem willing to fully mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states,” and “there was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced.”
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He quotes Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert as saying, Trump was “rudderless,” his “attention span is like a minus number,” and his sole purpose is to get reelected.
According to Woodward, Trump was told about the virus as early as January 20 in an Oval Office briefing in which National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned him: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” His deputy Matthew Pottinger warned the President that the threat was akin to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide.
Yet Trump play down the virus so as to not create panic.
The book, previewed by Washington Post, has other explosive disclosures, including Trump telling his trade advisor Peter Navarro, “…my f*****g generals are a bunch of p*****s. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”
According to the Post, Trump shared with Woodward visceral reactions to several prominent Democrats of color, including Kamala Harris of California. Upon seeing her calmly and silently watching him deliver his State of the Union address, Trump remarked, “Hate! See the hate! See the hate!”
He also despised Barack Obama, telling Woodward he was inclined to refer to him by his first and middle names, “Barack Hussein,” and calling him over-rated.